1
The Power of Positivity and Reflection
2
Fresh Air
3
Sleep!
4
Pillars for Mental Health
5
Stealth Health – Tales From the Toddler Dinner Table
6
Spring Into Wellness
7
A Little Touch of Spring
8
How Families Stay Strong
9
Hip Hip Hooray
10
Adults: Three Things Youth Want Us to Know

The Power of Positivity and Reflection

By: Leah Hollenberger

Northern Vermont University recently held its “Dinner with the Boss,” an event that welcomes students and alumni to give students experience in networking. Alumni were asked to share one “gem” they felt would be most helpful to students just beginning their journey in pursuing their chosen career. The advice was excellent, thought-provoking, and inspirational.

Common to each piece of advice was the importance of being authentic to yourself, using reflection to determine what is truly meaningful to you, and the strength of community. In short, embracing your heart as well as your mind and nurturing connectivity.

It reminded me of an exercise I did years ago as a participant in the ALIGN pilot program at Marlboro College. Through self-examination, careful observation, and reflection, I was able to develop a short specific list of what I need to have in my life on a monthly basis to stay healthy, positive, and engaged – what I would define as a successful life. I keep this list, typed out, in my desk drawer and I refer to it when I am frustrated, overwhelmed or stressed out. Typically, I quickly determine that I’ve neglected one of those items and refocus my actions. The exercise effectively improved my ability to reframe challenges in a positive, nurturing perspective instead of from an unhealthy, negative framework. Change is constant and I continue to use these tools that embrace heart and mind, my “attitude of gratitude,”  to guide me in meaningful action.

There are many programs, books, blogs, and Instagram accounts available today that embrace this authenticity and provide tools to individuals and communities.

  • Marlboro College continues to offer a similar leadership program to the pilot in which I participated.
  • The Positive Education movement, based on the work of Martin Seligman’s work in positive psychology, embraces heart and mind via curriculum and in-school programming.
  • Resiliency efforts, including the Resilience Beyond Incarceration program with the Lamoille Restorative Center and programs at the Lamoille Family Center that address Adverse Childhood Experiences, utilize this work.
  • Whole Heart, Inc. has a wellness model, similar to the exercise I did, that gives you a way to personally define your successful life.
  • Ted Talks has several presentations regarding positive psychology.   

My favorite piece of advice from “Dinner with the Boss” was a spur-of-the-moment adlib from an experienced educator. It demonstrated heart and mind by showing how a simple action can guarantee inclusivity without making a person declare a need while at the same time increasing the odds that her key message would be heard. What was the advice? “Always use the microphone.”

What tools do you use to encourage authenticity? What advice would you give a young person starting to pursue their career? 


Leah Hollenberger is the Development and External Relations Officer for Northern Vermont University. She helped create the Live Well Lamoille Blog while serving as Vice President of Marketing, Development, and Community Relations for Copley Hospital. A former award-winning TV and Radio producer, she is the mother of two and spends her free time volunteering, cooking, playing outdoors, and producing textile arts. Leah writes about community events, preventive care, and assorted ideas to help one make healthy choices.

Fresh Air

By: Caleb Magoon

benefit of fresh air

There is something beautiful and brilliant about- you guessed it: fresh air. No, not the radio program, the actual air you breathe in on a beautiful day where you are afforded the luxury of quite literally inhaling and exhaling clean air. But there is more to fresh air than just that.

This past week, spring suddenly sprung. This past weekend I spent some time watching, chasing, and playing with my 15-month-old son as he experienced the joy of a warm sunny day after a long Vermont winter. I can’t effectively describe the youthful joy of exploring a world you have only had a taste of, and doing so with the mobility that you have only realized in recent months. His response was purely instinctual and a clear reaction to his circumstances. What a joy to watch him!

Whether it was the fresh air, the sun, or the youthful exploration of the great outdoors, it was infectious. My wife and I had more fun because of it. But there is more to those things that meet the eye. Study after study has shown that kids need to get outside, see the sun, and breathe fresh air.

It doesn’t stop with kids. Just as we know well about “seasonal depression” for folks who need more light throughout the winter, adults too need recess. I see it in every smiling face, grins ear to ear, in the first few beautiful days of the spring. That’s because we can’t help it – our bodies instinctively respond to the rush of air and warmth and sun and we can only smile.

So if I give you any advice for the spring, it’s this: take recess. It doesn’t matter if you simply go for a five-minute walk on your lunch or coffee break, a loop around the block from your car to the building, or whatever! Put those inside cleaning projects on hold and weed the garden. It almost doesn’t matter what you do, just do it outside. If you are lucky enough to have the joy of a little physical recreation, all the better. Your physical and mental help will be the beneficiaries and your neighbors, friends and family will thank you for your sunny disposition.

Enjoy your spring!

Sleep!

By: Emily Neilsen

Sleep has always been important to me.  I grew up in a house where everyone’s first question in the morning was, “How’d you sleep?” In our home, naps were regularly taken and rest was often prioritized over other needs or wants. As an adult, not much has changed for me. So I was not just a little surprised to learn that the sleep habits I had developed as an adult were to blame for my less-than-perfect sleep patterns through the night.

This all came to a head about 2 years ago, when I was six months into parenthood. I was exhausted. There was a depth to my tiredness that felt almost irreversible. Well-intentioned friends and family noticed and provided assurance and advice: Buy an espresso maker! Rest when the baby rests! Don’t worry: the baby will start sleeping much more soundly soon! But the truth was that the baby was a great sleeper, who was often down for 8- to 11-hour stretches. It was me who was tossing and turning.

Around this time, a friend suggested I start following a sleep hygiene routine. I had never heard the term before, but I quickly learned that if sleep was my goal, I had to do some research and face the problem intentionally. Along the way, I came across a book that provided a paradigm shift for me: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, Ph.D.

Walker covers a host of topics related to sleep, but most powerfully for me, he speaks to the health consequences and risks of failing to sleep enough. In short, sleep impacts virtually every measurable health outcome. Failing to sleep enough (defined as 7 or more hours a night) doubles an individual’s risk of developing cancer, increases the incidence of Alzheimer’s, shortens one’s lifespan, increases the likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes, and increases all psychiatric illnesses, including anxiety and depression. Additionally, in recent years, drivers impaired by lack of sleep caused more vehicle accidents than those impaired by drugs and alcohol combined. For these reasons, along with others, the World Health Organization has declared a sleep loss epidemic in developed nations.

While I had known that sleep was important, I had never known that my survival was so dependent on getting so much sleep, consistently. Sleep, it was becoming clear to me, is incredibly serious business. So, how can we best ensure a good night’s rest? Experts recommend developing strong “sleep hygiene”, or habits that are conducive to regularly sleeping well.  Below is a list of behaviors that promote good sleep:

1. Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol, and other substances that interfere with sleep. Some resources recommend avoiding caffeine after noon and giving your body plenty of time to digest alcohol before going to sleep.

2. Establish a consistent bedtime routine and head to bed around the same time every night (even on weekends).

3. Set boundaries around screen time and limit blue light exposure in the hours leading up to bedtime.

4. Make your bedroom a place of rest – keep the bedroom dark and the temperature comfortable. Avoid doing work or watching TV in the bedroom.

5. Get outside and move during the day. Regular exposure to sunlight (even on cloudy days) and as little as 10 minutes a day of exercise positively impacts sleep cycles.

6. If you are a nighttime clock watcher or phone checker, take both out of the room.

7. Stay calm when you can’t sleep. Limit your awake time in bed to 10-20 minutes. If you can’t fall asleep (or back to sleep), do something else relaxing somewhere else in your house.

8. Experiment and be patient. Different approaches work for different people and finding the right mix of behavioral changes may take some time.  

Tips adapted from:


Emily Neilsen is a mother and educator, who loves asking big questions, digging in the soil, swimming in natural bodies of water, and playing outdoors. She is a 500-hour and Prenatal certified yoga instructor. Emily currently plans arts & cultural events and reading initiatives, and works with first-year students at Northern Vermont University-Johnson. She cares deeply about health and believes mental health, movement, and diet play essential roles in wellness. Emily lives with her husband and 2-year-old, as well as a husky and a calico cat in Hyde Park, VT.

Pillars for Mental Health

By: Julie Bomengen

Hello! I’m excited to offer you my first Live Well Lamoille blog post.  I will be covering topics related to Mental Health and hope that what I share will be interesting, educational, and applicable to you in your lives. I will be speaking about mental health from a Mind-Body approach which will include biological, psychological, and social perspectives. This style is inclusive, holistic, and integrated, and will allow for an exploration of mental health that is educational and functional.

The work I do as an outpatient mental health therapist includes discussion of “Pillars of Health.” These Pillars serve as the foundation for health and wellness and are paramount to any discussion about mental and emotional well-being. Pillars include:

  • Attention to Quality of Sleep and understanding the influence of our body’s Circadian Rhythms
  • Regular Physical Movement and Activities that are engaging and fun
  • Nutrient-Dense Foods that support optimal health for the individual
  • Involvement in a Supportive and Caring Community
  • Positive Personal and Intimate Relationships that are enduring, loving, and reliable
  • Meaningful Engagement in Work (paid or voluntary)
  • and lastly, a Robust Toolbox of Skills and Resources to Manage Current Stressors and/or Past Traumas.

I would argue that when we pay attention and subscribe to these Pillars of Health, the majority of disturbances in our health and wellbeing can and will be mitigated, if not eliminated. While it will always remain true that we cannot control for every variable that impacts our health and wellbeing, there is a hopefulness that comes with knowing that we have more agency and ability to manage and shape our health than we might have believed. Of course, if optimal health was achieved simply by knowing about these “Pillars,” we’d all be in good shape.

The truth is we benefit from a supportive environment in which to address our health goals. It can be hard to make and sustain changes, and due to bioindividuality (the fact that each of us has very specific needs for his or her own health according to age, constitution, gender, size, lifestyle, and ancestry), there is no “one size fits all” formula. Still, there are common themes and clear ways to feel better from the inside out. 

My goal is to help you understand and feel confident about how to take charge of your Mental Health. I look forward to teasing apart the “Pillars” and discussing other important and pressing themes such as addiction, depression, anxiety, and suicide, as well as the impact of a sedentary lifestyle and excessive screen time, and how a deficiency of time spent in nature all contribute to poor behavioral health outcomes.

For now, start paying attention to each of your own Pillars of Health and complete a self-inventory to determine which ones might need support and reinforcing. For example, ask yourself:

  • How is the quality of my sleep? Do I feel rested in the morning?
  • Am I moving my body in some way every day?  What impact does movement have on my mood?
  • Am I feeding my body and brain the nutrients it needs to function well? How are my moods impacted by what I eat or when I eat? 
  • Am I involved in some type of supportive community? If not, why? 
  • Are my relationships strong and reliable? How do these relationships impact my attitude or mood?
  • Am I doing work that I enjoy and find meaningful? Do I have effective outlets for managing stress?

Take some notes and stay tuned for how to optimize your mental and emotional health!

Best,  Julie


Julie Bomengen is a Vermont Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) with 22 years of experience in the field of mental health. Julie is also a Nutritional Therapy Consultant (NTC), a certification of the Nutritional Therapy Association. She lives, works and plays in Lamoille County.

Stealth Health – Tales From the Toddler Dinner Table

By: Julie Swank

If he had his own way, my son would subsist entirely on pancakes. In his words, “with syrup AND jam.” As a garden nutrition educator, I’m embarrassed to admit this, since I work hard to convince kids they love kale and beets over more sugar-laden food options. And here’s my own son double fisting pancakes drenched in syrup. 

I have to remember that I, as the well meaning adult in this picture, am in charge of helping my young one develop his palate to enjoy many different tastes and flavors. But a child’s love for all things carbohydrate and sugar can leave even the most determined parent feeling defeated from time to time at the dinner table. 

This is a good place to introduce the idea of stealth health, from the “if you can’t beat them, join ‘em” category of parenting advice. While it’s still important to introduce foods raw or solo for young kids to get a taste for them, sometimes you need to get creative to get all the nutrition you can into their growing bodies. I’m taking a page from my mom on this one, who had many vegetable pancake variations, most of which were not well received by my younger self. Corn, zucchini, and carrots all made appearances at the breakfast table, met with many a complaint from me to “just have normal pancakes.”

Well, here I am as an adult who loves many different kinds of veggies, so my mom’s persistence paid off. We’re in for the long haul teaching food habits to kids – food preferences are MUCH easier to shape at a young age.  However, this might not always look perfect. For example, my son tasting a bite of spinach and spitting it out onto my plate…but his excited “I tried it!” is a step in the right direction. We’ll work more on manners, but exposure to many different tastes in the toddler years will help our young ones become adventurous eaters as adults. 

Here are some fun ideas from the stealth health kitchen:

  • Pasta and pizza are often easy “wins” with kids – who doesn’t love them? Purée steamed kale or broccoli, roasted beets, or other veggies into the tomato sauce for extra nutrients. This also works for meatloaf or meatballs – add 1 cup of puréed veggies to your regular recipe. 
  • Take it from brussels sprouts, they got a lot more popular once they met bacon. Use small amounts of cheese or bacon to make a previously unpopular vegetables shine. 
  • If you’re desperate, you can always hide veggies! I often slip the kale and spinach under the cheese in a pizza. Also, grated or sliced veggies (raw or cooked) can easily be tucked into sandwiches and wraps without too much of a fuss.
  • Give in a little bit to a toddler’s love of sugar by roasting root vegetables like parsnips, carrots, and beets to bring out their natural sugars. Cut them in wedges and have “rainbow french fries”!

This pancake recipe is popular in our house and a great way to sneak some extra nutrients into breakfast without your picky eaters noticing. Enjoy! 

Carrot Apple Pancakes

  • 2 large carrots, grated
  • 1 large apple, grated
  • 1 cup plain yogurt + ½ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½  tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ginger (dried or fresh)
  • ½ cup raisins (optional)

Mix flour, baking soda, sugar, raisins, and spices together in a bowl.  Separately, whisk eggs, milk, and yogurt together and then stir in the grated carrot and apple. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients, being careful to not overmix (this makes pancakes tough). Fry on a pancake griddle, or in a little oil on a skillet until crispy and risen a bit. 


Julie Swank is a farmer, a school garden and nutrition educator, and most recently a mom, which has put all of her skills to the test to keep her busy two-year-old healthy and fed. She loves to connect people to their food by sharing advice from the kitchen and getting hands in the soil on the farm.  You can find her in the kitchen cooking meals for her son’s preschool, Four Seasons of Early Learning, and tending gardens in Greensboro, VT.

Spring Into Wellness

By: Deb Nevil

I don’t know about you, but this time of year always tugs at my inner gardener. I linger in a space of memories to the joy I find in delicious, locally grown produce and berries. As I watch the birds ready themselves for mating and all that the ritual of spring renewal has to offer, I dream of seeds sprouting, sap running, and the trees budding.  In Vermont, we know how quickly things change and that goes for our short growing season. I’m longing for cool misty mornings with my bare feet in the garden, long, steamy days that turn into peaceful evenings filled with music and laughter, and for summer farmers’ markets to open and the connection that brings to abundance and community.

Did you know that starting in July, just in time for peak growing season, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets Division is opening up the Farm to Family program to our local farm stands?

This program falls under Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and supplements healthy eating choices of locally produced fruits, vegetables and plant starts for families from birth to age five. Farm to Family was originally only for farmers’ markets, but with this expansion, a broader focus on the importance of starting to eat healthy from the start helps to foster healthy habits for a lifetime. Families receive $30.00 in Farm to Family coupons in $6.00 increments. Here’s who can get support from WIC:

  • Pregant Women
  • Moms
  • Dads
  • Grandparents
  • Foster Parents
  • Step Parents
  • Guardians

“If you’re pregnant, a caregiver, or a mom with a child under age 5, you can get the right personalized support for you and your family. Caregivers with low to medium income and those who are part of other programs such as foster care, medical assistance or SNAP are eligible. Contact your local office for details.” – signupwic.com

This time of year also brings renewal and change. I try to focus on eating healthy and incorporating recipes that are easy, versatile and satisfying. I was on my social media account last night and a good friend, Kim Place-Faucher, posted a picture of a delicious salad.

Healthy spring seasonal recipe

 The funny thing was, her post asked about food blogging! Well of course, I had to share my guest blog post through Healthy Lamoille Valley and that I was writing this post for all of you. I asked if I could share her recipe and she said, “Yes!”  Here is Kim’s recipe:

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 blood orange
  • 1 Cara Cara orange
  • 1 navel
  • A small handful of fresh cilantro
  • Dress the salad with fresh-squeezed lime juice and drizzle with local honey.

This season also provides the best local maple syrup, so you could try a variation by changing out the honey with maple. Whatever your choice, I hope this finds you well and wanting to enjoy the offerings of the season. At the very least it might make mud season more tolerable.

In gratitude,

 Deb


Deb Nevil is a Boston native who grew up summering on the ocean in Marshfield, MA. Clamming, blackberry picking, gardening and homemade cooking has always been her passion. Consequently, her love for healthy, natural food and wellness has brought her to create in her hometown, Jeffersonville Farmers’ and Artisan Market. Deb was encouraged by her parents to live life on her own terms while helping others achieve their goals through neighborliness, generosity and compassion.

A mother of 4 with a M.Ed., Deb oversees the after school and summer Enrichment program as the 21st Center for Learning Coordinator at Cambridge Elementary School. Deb understands the importance of a healthy, educated and engaged community to raise positive and productive children. She is a Vermont Farmers’ Market Advisory (VTFMA) Board Member, Brand Ambassador for Kingdom Creamery of VT and coordinates the JFAM Mtn. Jam Music Series in Jeffersonville in July-August.

Deb lives in Cambridge with her family, and babies: her dogs and cats.

A Little Touch of Spring

By: Valerie Valcour

The Vernal Equinox is March 20, 2019. Looking outside my window, I dare say there is more snow melting that needs to happen before it feels like spring. Every year I look forward to spring and getting my hands in the garden to tend my flowers. For me, caring for my flowers provides me solace and relaxation.

You can find several references regarding gardening as a source of mental health. Here is one such reference from Psychology Today. In this article, the author identifies gardening as a source of nurturing and being in the present moment.

The first flower that greets us in the spring is the Crocus. The Crocus is a brave yet delicate flower. It reminds me that having a little courage can help me push through the cold dormant ground of winter’s past. I hope you enjoy this poem by Frances Ellen Walkins Harper and think Spring!

The Crocuses

They heard the South wind sighing
    A murmur of the rain;
And they knew that Earth was longing
    To see them all again.
 
While the snow-drops still were sleeping
    Beneath the silent sod;
They felt their new life pulsing
    Within the dark, cold clod.
 
Not a daffodil nor daisy
    Had dared to raise its head;
Not a fairhaired dandelion
    Peeped timid from its bed;
 
Though a tremor of the winter
    Did shivering through them run;
Yet they lifted up their foreheads
    To greet the vernal sun.
 
And the sunbeams gave them welcome,
    As did the morning air—
And scattered o’er their simple robes
    Rich tints of beauty rare.
 
Soon a host of lovely flowers
    From vales and woodland burst;
But in all that fair procession
    The crocuses were first.
 
First to weave for Earth a chaplet
    To crown her dear old head;
And to beauty the pathway
    Where winter still did tread.
 
And their loved and white-haired mother
    Smiled sweetly ’neath the touch,
When she knew her faithful children
    Were loving her so much

-Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, 1825 – 1911


Valerie Valcour is a Public Health Nurse and specializes in chronic disease prevention and emergency preparedness at the community level for the Department of Health in Morrisville. Valerie has lived in Lamoille County for most of her life. She graduated from People’s Academy in 1983 and worked as a nurse at Copley Hospital for several years. In addition to her work, she volunteers as a board member of both Community Health Services of Lamoille Valley and the Lamoille County Planning Commission.

How Families Stay Strong

By: Steve Ames

Local Resources Available for Parents

Speaking to a legislator earlier this session, I came to realize that not everyone knows about the significant integrated approach to prevention the state and a large number of partner organizations take, sometimes called “upstream strategies,” to ensure kids and families succeed in life.

Data shows that focusing on prevention efforts has a significant impact on lowering costs down the road for other systems and services, including special education, health care and even corrections. Even more important, they help kids and their families lead healthier, happier lives.

While there are many different efforts aimed at prevention, from smoking cessation, Early Intervention, Strong Families Home Visiting, and Care Coordination to name just a few, my focus here is on a prevention framework that Vermont has committed to over many years that can be incorporated across many other prevention strategies – the tried and true Strengthening Families Framework.

Strengthening Families is a research-informed approach to increase family strengths (also sometimes referred to as “resilience”), enhance child development, and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. It is based on engaging families, programs, and communities in building five key protective factors – factors that help kids and families do better when difficult things happen to them (including Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs):

  1. Parental resilience: Managing stress and functioning well when faced with challenges, adversity and trauma. We can all learn ways to manage the inevitable challenges that occur in our daily lives. Parent education classes offered through the Parent Child Centers (like the Lamoille Family Center) are just one strategy to help parents learn these skills.
  2. Social connections: Positive relationships that provide emotional, informational, instrumental and spiritual support. Social connections include keeping in touch with family members, but also are as simple as going to community events and school events – or just talking to each other on the street and waving to each other as you pass by on the road.
  3. Knowledge of parenting and child development: Understanding child development and parenting strategies that support physical, cognitive, language, social and emotional development. If you know that your three-year-old’s brain is not able to reason like your nine-year-old’s, then parenting will be a little bit easier – but there are myriad ways that knowledge of child development helps people to interact with kids in more positive ways.
  4. Concrete support in times of need: Access to concrete support and services that address a family’s needs and help minimize stress caused by challenges. Concrete support can be help from a friend when your family is stressed, or help from a family member. It can also come from a Parent Child Center, church, or a state agency. It can be fundamental – like help with food or housing, or it can be more emotional, like help dealing with the fantastic new skills of your two-year-old.
  5. Social and emotional competence of children: Family and child interactions that help children develop the ability to communicate clearly, recognize and regulate their emotions, and establish and maintain relationships. When kids learn the difference between thinking and feeling, they are more likely to communicate successfully and feel better. These key skills result in all of us getting the help we need.

Local Resources Available for Parents

In Vermont, the Child Development Division of the Agency of Human Services have been awarding annual grants for the past eight years to help child care providers learn about and incorporate the Strengthening Families Framework into their programs.

Parent Child Centers in every region of Vermont, like the Lamoille Family Center and the Family Center of Washington County, with whom I work, promote resilience and the protective factors every day at their centers, at the many playgroups they lead, during free parent education classes, and through the Children’s Integrated Services activities they provide for their communities.

Help Me Grow, Vermont’s Child Development call center (211), also provides support for people looking for solutions to challenges around being a family.

The five protective factors at the foundation of Strengthening Families also offer a framework for changes at the systems, policy and practice level – locally, statewide and nationally. Part of Building Bright Futures’ work includes creating and revising plans of action each regional council uses to inform and guide their work through the year, and the Strengthen Families Framework helps us identify key strategies in our communities.

At its heart, Strengthening Families is about how families and individuals find support, and are supported to build key protective factors that enable children to thrive. In most cases in our day-to-day lives, we find these five protective factors on our own. Sometimes we need a little more help – and Vermont is working through a collective impact approach to make sure that our variety of formal and informal services and supports for children and families are designed to make families strong.


As the Regional Coordinator for Building Bright Futures, Steve staffs The Lamoille Valley Building Bright Futures Regional Council, a volunteer committee focused on the well being of young children and their families. There is one such Council in each of twelve regions of the State. Steve also works with the Playroom in Morrisville. He writes about early childhood, families, community, play, and equity.

Hip Hip Hooray

By: Dan Regan

The other day, Presidents’ Day to be precise, I had my hip replaced. Years of playing squash, a fast-moving and otherwise healthful racquet sport, had worn away the cartilage on one hip and had ground the joint down to nothing. The surgeon’s highly technical (sic.) diagnosis was that it was “beyond broken.”

Leading up to this common but still major surgery, I found myself with three overwhelming concerns: (1) my toenails; (2) a slight irritation at waist level, dry skin from Vermont’s cold winters exacerbated by a styrofoam flotation belt worn for exercise in a pool; and especially (3) whether home health, after the operation, would look askance at our small house, and at the clutter and occasional mess created by its three dogs and three cats. Anyone who has given birth may already be scoffing at these concerns. Whether they are merely peculiar, fairly usual, or an abject denial of what was to come, I am not sure.

importance of preventative care

I do know for sure that, soon to turn 73, I am extraordinarily fortunate. This was the first time I had ever been an in-patient at a hospital. By contrast, in a single year—2016 for instance—7% of the total US population experienced a hospital stay of at least one night duration. That’s over 35 million inpatient stays in one year.

These Americans—readers of this blog among them—are a hardy bunch. My hospital of choice (Copley) provided an exceptional quality of highly personalized care during my recent stay. The entire staff was just terrific.

Nevertheless, no matter how wonderful the ministrations of a healthcare team, a hospital is a humbling place. That’s because a hospital is an example of a « total institution »—that is, a place of work and residence where a large number of people are cut off from the wider community for a considerable time. Their new community has its own rhythm, rules, and procedures. For the healing and recovery process to play out properly, hospital patients must skillfully play their important roles; above all, they must make an effort to get better.

Of course, the promise of eventual recovery makes it all well worth it, but hospitalization is nevertheless far from easy: frequent patients have to be mighty tough. For one thing, a slight pall of anxiety overlays everything. Patient instructions, for instance, even for a planned-in-advance procedure such as mine, can end up seeming more complicated than assembling furniture from IKEA. Amidst the swirl of prescriptions, instructions, do’s and don’ts, it’s hard not to feel at least a little dense.

To be sure, lots of valuable lessons are learned in the process, including humility, gratitude and our common humanity. But they come at a price: a temporary loss of privacy, nakedness and exposure, the surgical assault upon one’s body, as well as a forced immersion into the private travails of strangers who are all too close.

No one looks forward to feeling these ways. Their antidote would seem to be minimizing hospitalizations. Accomplishing that will require, on the part of many of us, a greater focus on wellness. And even then, some hospital stays are the product of bad luck or non-preventable circumstances beyond our control. Certain microorganisms, genetic legacies, environmental factors or accidents can land us on our backs.

But there remain many hospital stays that result from individual lifestyle choices. My hope is that, to minimize the chances of being hospitalized, readers will take whatever steps they can toward their own wellness. Recent posts on this blog, for instance by Caleb Magoon and Michele Whitmore, provide some great and practical suggestions. Future posts will provide more, so stay tuned.  

In addition, wouldn’t it be great if insurance providers increased their support for wellness? In Germany, for instance, certain blood pressure readings would yield an Rx for hydrotherapy and spa treatments. Try charging your insurer for those! Nor is there generally insurer support for membership in a gym or fitness center, despite the consensus among healthcare providers that more exercise would be beneficial for most people. Acupuncture, in spite of its lineage that dates back thousands of years, is rarely supported. Even therapeutic massage, the benefits of which are widely recognized, is not generally covered.

A greater investment in preventive and wellness measures would save a great deal of money now expended on curative, after-the-fact treatments. So I urge readers to take whatever steps they can, hopefully with—but even without—the support of their insurers. The hospital, even a great one, should be a last resort.


Dan Regan, a sociologist, is the former dean of academic affairs at Johnson State College and continues to work part-time for Northern Vermont University. He writes for a variety of publications about whatever interests him, including—recently—climate change, living with arthritis, the NFL players’ protests, and higher education.

Adults: Three Things Youth Want Us to Know

By: Jessica Bickford, Coordinator, Healthy Lamoille Valley

Mental Health in Teenagers

One of the things I love most about my work is connecting with students. Recently I had the opportunity to meet with three Lamoille Valley students. As part of our conversation, I asked them what they wished adults knew…  Here’s what they had to say:

“Depression, anxiety, and insecurity are real in our lives.” While adults struggle with these things, our students are experiencing them, often for the first time, without the tools that adults have learned. As adults, we need to acknowledge these feelings as real and very pressing. Students have limited life experiences to reference and are making life-altering decisions that will shape the rest of their lives.  Honor these feelings and be there to help.

Similarly, “Stress is real.”  There are a lot of things that youth have to manage. Create opportunities to develop skills and habits to manage stress. These can be simple things: talking, listening to music, going for a walk/run, journaling, creating art, physical activity, and learning to know what you can do and how to say “no.” This last concept is key… youth don’t want to let anyone down… friends, teachers, parents… it’s easy for them to overcommit to avoid hurting others’ feelings. Learning to look at their schedules, balance their time, and say “no” gracefully are important life skills.

“Recognize that we have different personalities and enjoy different things. Provide opportunities to develop our unique skills.” Many students like to help, but as adults, we should be aware of their personalities and interests and find ways to meet those interests and build those skills. As an example, one person may love to speak and be out front while another enjoys helping behind the scenes. Embrace their personalities!

I encourage you to take time to ask the youth in your life, “What do you wish the adults in your life know about being a teen?” or “Life seems pretty stressful right now, how can I support you better?”  Then really listen and find ways to show that you heard them. When you do this, you’re building protective factors* for youth.  You’re showing them that they matter and opening up opportunities for future conversations!

* Healthy Lamoille Valley is a substance abuse prevention coalition working to reduce youth substance abuse. Find out more at healthylamoillevalley.org. Youth who have strong protective factors are less likely to rely on substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana to manage stress or find value. 


Jessica Bickford works as a Coordinator of Healthy Lamoille Valley, where she has enjoyed writing for their blog. Writing for Copley’s community blog is a natural extension of this experience! Healthy Lamoille Valley focuses on making healthy choices easy choices, realizing that when we have access to healthy options we are less likely to choose behaviors that are harmful. Prevention is really a lifestyle of wise choices that enable us to live life to the fullest.